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Sarah Morris,
Instant and
Fishnet (Legs Crossed)
at Galerie Philippe Rizzo

letter from paris
by Jeff Rian

sarah morris
at galerie philippe rizzo

"Sugar" is the title of a series of large, hard-edge, lacquer paintings on canvas by Sarah Morris, a 1990 Whitney Museum Independent Study Program graduate, who paints words and numbers like Sugar, Sweet, Instant, 45, and girls in sunglasses or fishnet stockings, as in Fishnet (Legs Crossed). They recall pop art, Alex Katz portraits, late `70s Image painting, tabloid headlines, and even the '50s-styled page designer Mike Mills. But there's a Heather Locklear kind of bad girl sulking behind the fishnets and sunglasses, suggesting an ingenue's version of noli me tangere and the kind of fragility that waxes a sneer. The words "sugar" and "sweet" painted, respectively, in puce on acid green and firetruck red over baby blue, convey a heartfelt ironic grudge about teenage self-consciousness and the mixed messages that emanate, particularly from the media, about the transition from childhood and adulthood. So for all their aggressive pop and hipness the paintings are brooding and bitchy. But they linger and sulk like irresistible Lolitas. We'll see how they age.

JEFF RIAN is a writer living in Paris.